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The Outer Worlds
Game Reviews

The Outer Worlds

A decent explorative RPG nearly undone by a platform that’s just not able to handle it; seek your adventures elsewhere.

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Hype! It’s a curious thing, isn’t it? Some games end up laid low by their hype – look at Watch_Dogs and Mass Effect: Andromeda, for instance, both entirely playable games that got meme’d upon by the outrage-loving Internet because of their massive hype engines sputtered out. Others, like The Outer Worlds, enjoy a rising tide of hype thanks to their pedigrees. That’s right, we’ve got a new first-person RPG from Obsidian Entertainment. Did you know they made Fallout: New Vegas? Surely it’s going to be good.

I mean, let’s not forget that they made Dungeon Siege III as well. Nobody seems to talk about that one, for some reason. Also, well, now we’re talking about The Outer Worlds on Switch, and I feel like we’re probably not going to be talking about this particular port very much in the future.

In a far future dominated by powerful megacorporations, your character is awakened from years of cryosleep by a mysterious scientist. He wants you to help him, but first you’re going to have to get a grip on who you are, where you are and what you’re doing. The Halcyon system is a big place, after all, and there are plenty of power players looking for an easy mark or a hired gun. Someone with skills is bound to attract their attention – or that of the Board, the corporate entity that owns Halcyon and pretty much everyone in it.

When Outer Worlds was first announced everyone was excited for a new Obsidian RPG and that’s exactly what they got. You’ve got a selection of stats and skills to invest in as well as perks to choose as you level up and optional flaws earned through gameplay; your choices will affect how you approach standard video game situations. In a nice touch, taking particularly low stats has detrimental effects such as eliminating your natural regeneration or other such maluses. This encourages a more balanced build rather than rampant min-maxing.

This is a contemporary CRPG. That means Video Game Moral Decisions, though mercifully Outer Worlds lacks an explicit morality meter and instead judges you with reputation bars. Your mileage here may vary. Does the thought of a companion repeatedly reminding you that you’re about to make a Video Game Moral Decision damage your immersion at all? if it does, well…

Dialogue trends toward the wordy and lore-packed as is usually the case with Obsidian. Fortunately, Halcyon is a pretty interesting place, so all those words tend to be worth reading and the lore is worth investigating. As for combat, it owes a lot to the modern Fallout games, so you’ve got your VATs analogue (Tactical Time Dilation or TTD, essentially bullet time), your locational damage and your weapon degradation.

Your skill and perk choices will affect how you approach combat, with stealthier characters and those who invest heavily into TTD having the easiest time in my experience. If you focus on a more conversation-oriented character you can still succeed, though, particularly since social skills will improve the stats of your adventuring companions so they can do the work for you.

Outside of combat and dialogue there’s plenty to explore and do. You have your own ship, the Unreliable, that you can use to explore the galaxy and get into all sorts of adventures. For my money, the most fun activity in Outer Worlds is theft. Bump up your stealth skills and get to grabbin’. There’s plenty of loot to be found. All that’s stopping you is your inventory space and your patience. Go nuts! Get rich! Find high-quality weapons hours before you’re supposed to have them! I might rib these games a little, but it’s hard to beat that feeling when you lift some especially good gear.

Being able to mod your weapons and armor to your liking is great as well, giving you even more reason to steal everything that’s not nailed down. Lacking that Video Game Morality Meter means it’s even more worthwhile to steal everything. Go nuts. You don’t even need a huge amount of stealth stats to manage it.

Graphically, Outer Worlds manages to look better than the modern Fallout games, so that’s a win…at least on other platforms. This is The Outer Worlds on the Nintendo Switch, which means visuals below the lowest possible graphical settings into somewhere below the Low settings on PC. The game tries, it really does, but most of the time the Switch version of The Outer Worlds looks and runs like a Nintendo 64 game…and a third-party one, at that.

On top of that, there’s horrific input lag that makes any sort of gunplay even harder than usual, especially given you’re using a controller. Using a proper gamepad like the Pro Controller helps alleviate some of this over the stock Joy-Cons, but if you’ve got literally any other option for playing this game, you’ll probably want to go that direction.

All of this is sad, disappointing, and somewhat inevitable, given we’ve seen the Switch handle more recently graphically intense games like DOOM and Wolfenstein with relative ease. Honestly, this port is more like what we saw in the Switch version of The Witcher 3,which some of you loved a lot more than I did.

At around 20 hours, The Outer Worlds is a little short for a game with so much hype surrounding it. Generally speaking, it’s an enjoyable 20 hours, though, even if it doesn’t break a lot of new ground and ends up feeling a lot like New Vegas IN SPACE. Playing again with a drastically different character can result in some new experiences as well, particularly depending on which factions you choose to side with. Much of this experience remains in the Switch version, though the degraded visuals and controls significantly muddy the experience. Try as it might, the console simply isn’t up to delivering what the developers intended, so you’re better off playing the game elsewhere. Here’s a tip – it’s one of the highlights of Microsoft’s Game Pass. Maybe give it a shot there.

About the Author: Cory Galliher